Guide to Reaching Out to Modeling Agencies

Guide to Reaching Out to Modeling Agencies

So much of photography is built on social relationships. Models, makeup artists, hair stylists, designers, and assistants all play a crucial role in contributing to the creation of an image. At the center of the photographer's work is the model, yet photographers may find it difficult to reach out to modeling agencies for collaboration. This article will describe some best practices to start and maintain relationships with modeling agencies and their models that may enable you to further develop your portfolio.

It can be intimidating for new photographers to approach models for collaboration, but there are several online resources to help with that initial nudge. Before you feel comfortable reaching out to modeling agencies, it makes sense to use sites such as Model Mayhem, Facebook, and Instagram to start finding models who want to build their portfolios. When you’re ready to start building a professional portfolio though, you’ll want to start working with professional models, which can generally be accessed through modeling agencies.

Sections of models will be located in different areas of modeling agency websites. You will generally find a "new faces" tab on these sites, describing new models looking to expand and update their portfolio. In some ways, they may be in the same boat as you. These models will be the most accessible for test photoshoots (unpaid shoots that are for the purpose of portfolio building). On the other hand, models on the main pages of the agency site, who have developed portfolios and are likely already booking paid work, will be more difficult to book for test shoots.

Emanuel Maktabi and Edvard Stang of Idol Looks Agency.

When reaching out to agencies, it is best to start with an email that clearly, concisely states your intention. Keep in mind that photographers looking to test email agencies all the time. Remember to be detailed, concise, and polite. Let's look at some well-written emails from professional photographers to modeling agencies to see what we can learn.

Example 1 - Written by U.K. Beauty Photographer Tina Eisen

Example 2 - Written by L.A. Fashion Photographer Rudy Bonifaz

From these two examples written by professional photographers we can begin to put together a list of important elements of a well-written email.

Deconstructing These Emails

  1. Greeting
  2. Introduction and self-pitch
  3. References to your work
  4. Your team
  5. Specifics and purpose of email (your request)
  6. Mood board
  7. Availability
  8. Ending note

Before making contact, you should know why you are reaching out to a particular agency. That is to say, are you about to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship for yourself and the agency? Make sure that your photography will match the aesthetic of the agency. Photographer and assistant booker at Found Model Management, Gail Shamon, took some time to talk with me about her experience with photographers reaching out to her agency to test, “As a booker, I always appreciate good shooters who make a point to specifically address the needs of the agency and the needs of newer models who’s books need further development.”

Once you’ve found the right agency, and the agency agrees to a test shoot, they’ll more than likely send you a PDF package, which generally includes about six models. When you’ve selected the model who best fits your vision, ask if they’re available.

Angel Lin of Willow Model Management.

Once you have a model you want to work with, it's a good idea to start with the model release form, which ensures you are able to legally publish images of your model on your website, blog, or for any marketing materials. It's a good practice to always carry release forms in a folder in a bag you take to a photoshoot. You can find several free model release templates online to download and print. Once signed, for added security, you can scan the form and save in the cloud (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.). Or, if you're looking to save paper, free apps provide model releases with e-signature options.

Your relationship with the modeling agency doesn't end after the shoot. If you want to continue a relationship, make sure to deliver the final edited images (or images to select edits from) to your original contact at the agency. Remember best practices here: show your appreciation; be thankful. As your relationship with an agency grows, you will be able to access more experienced models, who will help you develop your vision as well as your portfolio. Practicing with these tips in mind will help you do just that.

If you'd like to learn more lighting and shooting tips, consider checking out our Fundamentals of Fashion Photography course with Shavonne Wong or our more in depth Fashion and Editorial Portrait Photography tutorial with Clay Cook. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 

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Anete Lusina's picture

This is very helpful. Although I have been fortunate enough that a model reached out to me from an agency, I would love to shoot different faces in the future and will definitely keep in mind the email suggestions! I have never even considered to reach out to an agency before because it seems really intimidating!

Rudy Bonifaz's picture

Hi Anete,

I myself am fairly new to reaching out to agencies for the same reason! The thought of it alone was scary. However I encourage you to do it and be persistent! My best piece of advice is to give them the details as best as possible and include a mood board as well so they know you mean serious business. Also, don't be afraid to email multiple agencies! Some might not respond but persistence and patience will get you there.

Dave McDermott's picture

It's nice to see some written examples from other photographers. I haven't had much luck with agencies myself. Usually I get no reply. There is one small agency that I have done a few shoots for but I contacted the models directly. I prefer to cut out the middle man if I can at all.

Joe Healey's picture

Hi Emily, I use the standard Getty release when shooting. I book models directly from photography studios, professional dancers, IG and other sources.South Florida is wonderful for this. But I thought that if I were to work with an Agency, they would provide their form of release spelling out specifically the conditions under which they would work with me. Was I incorrect in this assumption? Thank you.

Emily Teague's picture

Hi Joe! Some agencies do have their own release forms, but it's not necessarily the norm. From all the agencies I've worked with, I've never received one.

Joe Healey's picture

I would have never known that. Thanks for the reply and the helpful article Emily.

Darryn Adams's picture

Thank you for this insightful information, Emily!

Pawel Witkowski's picture

Model Release to me means you have material rights to sell an image, which in test shoots with agencies never happens (they wont give it for free), unless you pay for it. Test shoots are only for portfolios, and they usually don't need Model Release form as it's only use is to promote photographer/model/team involved only?

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for this, Emily. I am so honored to have you in my magazine's upcoming issue.